Why you Should Specialize in Specific Technologies and Ignore the Noise (and Avoid Going Insane)

If you’re a little bit like me, you “suffer” from some type of technology ADHD. I explain how to cure yourself of this terrible anxiety-inducing disease that kills productivity.

After 7 years in the tech industry, I’ve started to make it a point to go out of my way to specialize in specific technologies and try as hard as I can to ignore every alternative service or tool on the market. Not because I'm not excited about trying new things — I am, always, and that’s the problem. Life is too short to learn about every popular tool out there, let alone excel at them.

As a developer and entrepreneur, I decided a while ago to bet my money (time) on a single horse in the front-end framework (or library) department, and that is React (and React Native). I don’t care about the latest exciting announcements about Angular, Vue or Svelte. News about those (awesome) technologies is irrelevant to me and only serves as unhelpful distractions.

That doesn’t mean that React is better than any of those other frameworks by the way. I wouldn’t know, as I’ve only dipped my toes in those waters briefly, and then immediately jumped back on my React horse.

I desperately want to avoid getting caught (again) these dangerous bugs:

  • the fear of missing out (FOMO)
  • the grass is always greener on the other side
  • the paradox of choice

Having many options can be good, but having an exponentially increasing amount of options — while having the same, scarce, amount of time, is not good for your productivity. If anything, it induces anxiety, because:

“What if you made the wrong choice...?”.

Try to be everywhere — end up getting nowhere

There’s no reason to spend your time learning and using a bunch of different frameworks and tools that largely provide the same features and functionality (give or take). Whether we’re talking web frameworks, email clients, newsletter providers or something else.

Sure, no service is exactly the same, but there’s sure as hell a ton of very similar services and tools out there — even if their persuasive marketing methods make it sound otherwise.

Curiosity is good, so don’t get me wrong. Especially early in your career, it’s important, and healthy, to explore and try different things. But at some point, you need to settle down and take a few chances, by betting on a short selection of horses, and trusting the process. This is how you become excellent at something.

Deep focus is crucial to becoming excellent at anything valuable.

Don’t water down your focus, instead spend time on getting great at one, max two tools/methods from each category:

  • One or two programming languages, e.g. JavaScript & Python
  • One front-end framework, e.g. Gatsby or Next.js (React frameworks)
  • One or two hosting providers (one if you can get away with it), e.g. DigitalOcean and Netlify
  • One newsletter provider, e.g. MailChimp or ConvertKit

If you’re using either of the big front-end framework technologies right now, and you like it, and job opportunities are good, then stick with it!

Unfortunately, the habit of broad technology exploration that you acquire early in your career is hard to kick once you have it.

You have to discipline yourself to ignore all the noise from the competitive/alternative platforms because reality is that it’s way more valuable to be great with one powerful tool than being average with 3.

I’ve been working as a project manager a couple of times the last 12 months, and one thing that 100% guarantees that I won’t hire someone are if they claim to specialize in more than one front-end or back-end framework (within the same category). If your list of skills says “React, Angular, and Vue expert” you’re immediately disqualified, because the odds of you being exceptionally good at either of them are close to 0.

As Bruce Lee once said:

I don't fear the man who has practiced 10000 kicks but the man who has practiced 1 kick 10000 times!

Embrace constraints

One of the key ingredients behind becoming productive is to limit choice. “Constraint” is not a bad word per definition, although we humans tend to behave as if it is. Constraints force you to become more focused and creative with what you already have. Constraints reduce the amount of context switching you’ll do daily by jumping back and forth between different tools, languages and code syntax.

So unless React all of a sudden collapses and the community goes away, I’m not planning on spending even 1 second of my time on alternative technologies. At this point in my career, the only reason for me to start using new technology is if it provides a necessary tool or service that I don’t already have.

Limit your choices, bet on a small handful of horses, go deep, specialize, and enjoy a productive life with way less anxiety, stress, and distractions 💪

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